ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Governing transitions to low-carbon futures: political challenges in transition governance

Roger Hildingsson
Lunds Universitet
Roger Hildingsson
Lunds Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

Efforts to achieve radical cuts in carbon emissions and promote transitions to low-carbon societies will have profound implications for governance and policy change not yet receiving sufficient attention. Thus, a remaining challenge is to envisage how such transitions might be achieved politically. In examining the challenges of transition governance, this paper aims at exploring what it might entail to govern transitions to low-carbon futures in view of (i) conceptual understandings of governance present in the study of, for instance, sustainability governance, green political transformations, socio-technical system innovation and transition management; as well as (ii) empirical evidence from the Swedish case of promoting radical policy change for instigating and steering low-carbon energy system transformations. Contemporary understandings of governance provide broadly two perspectives on collective action and societal steering. Society-centric views emphasize the increased complexity and horizontal nature of socio-political relationships and the rise of new forms of networked governance as well as the reliance on market mechanisms and novel policy instruments. State-centric views emphasize the critical, albeit changed, role of political institutions in advanced societies, not only as governance-takers but as governance-shapers as well. This points to the continued salience of vertical relationships and hierarchical steering alongside novel and hybrid forms of governance. In this view it seems hard to imagine structural socio-technical system transformations without the active support of political institutions, state interventions and authoritative mechanisms to ensure policy change and constrain (enable) certain behaviours. Thus, to govern low-carbon transitions may require both political commitment and direction, and the mobilization of resources and coalitions of key actors while being inclusive to various interests. In this state institutions and central political actors seem key in particular respects, for instance in providing the enabling institutional and governance arrangements, and promoting the narratives and strategies that attracts political legitimacy and public support for the desired transition.